Student Business Grants: 15 Best Funding Programs for Student Entrepreneurs
If you’re a young entrepreneur looking for a student business grant, you’re in luck! Because there are many programs currently available in Canada to help you start and grow a business.
What is a Student Business Grant?
The Government of Canada defines a grant as:
a transfer payment subject to pre-established eligibility and other entitlement criteria. A grant is not subject to being accounted for by a recipient nor normally subject to audit by the department. The recipient may be required to report on results achieved.
So, a student business grant is:
What Can Student Business Grants Be Used For?
Student business grants can be used to pay for many aspects of starting or running a business. Here are some of the uses that are covered by programs in our grants database:
And that’s just a sample! See the section below with a complete list of student business grants available.
How Much Money Can I Get for My Student Business Grant?
In our database we currently have grants ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.
Am I Eligible for a Student Business Grant? Common Eligibility Criteria
Two of the most common questions we get asked at Ontario Business Grants are “Am I eligible?” and “How do I qualify?”.
We analyzed the student business grants in our grants database, and these are the most common qualifications we identified:
Note: these are just the most common eligibility criteria – there are many grants with different requirements.
How to Apply for Student Business Grants: Follow These 6 Steps
While the application steps for student business grant programs vary, here are some common steps:
- Gather a comprehensive list of all current grants. In Canada, hundreds of business grants are available for different industries, demographic groups, and purposes. Learn what is out there and cast a wide net when you apply to maximise your chances of securing funds.
- Focus on grants related to your industry. Review the application requirements to find out whether your business is eligible. When your business goals fit a particular type of grant, you have better chances of getting matched to it. You want to devote your time and energy to grants where you have the highest potential of winning.
- Reach out to the grant agencies directly. If you want to gain more understanding on what qualities the agencies are looking for in their grant applicants, there is no better way than to go right to the source. If possible, ask the agency questions and look for areas where you can stand out from the rest.
- Make a plan for your grant application. This plan should include a one-page draft of your grant application statement.
- Organise your documents. Grant organisations often ask their applicants to provide a business plan and other pertinent documents. If you organise your documents in advance, you’ll be ready to submit them when the grant agency requests them.
- Submit a well-thought-out application. If you follow the five steps above, your application will have a good chance of getting approved.
- Don’t miss other types of funding. Grants represent just one type of funding, but there are many other types of funding suitable for business owners. These include low-interest loans, wage subsidies, tax incentives, competitions, incubators and accelerators, and many more.
Best Student Business Grants, Loans & More
While there are lots of good programs available, below we highlight some of the best grants, loans & more for student entrepreneurs:
Best Student Business Grant Provided by Government
Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade – Summer Company
Who says you need to be old to start a company? Some of the best talent with the most innovative ideas comes from young people.
So start up a new business for the summer! Whether you’re in high school, college, or university doesn’t matter. As long as you’re a Canadian between 18 and 29, are heading back to school in the fall, and not already running another business or working full time over the summer, then you could get some money from the provincial government to start something new.
You’ll even get access to some fantastic mentoring and the option of continuing to run your business once you go back to school. It can be any type of business almost too, as long as you can qualify as self-employed on your taxes and you run it on a full-time basis.
And get $1,500 when you start your business anywhere between May and July and another $1,500 when, and if, you shut it down on Labour Day.
Best Non-Profit Grant for Student Entrepreneurs
Mitacs – Accelerate Entrepreneur
Here’s an opportunity for student entrepreneurs! PhD and graduate students that is.
If you’ve got some research or technology that needs just a bit more support and development from an incubator facility to get it to the market as fast as possible and you’re a PhD or grad student, apply to this one before any other funding program.
Get your new business off the ground with your new research or tech with funding of at least 50% from Mitacs under this program, of which the minimum is $10,000 for a 4-month project, when you find yourself a host incubator facility. Projects can go longer or require more funds, but 4 months is the minimum.
All academic disciplines are welcome, and full-time students at all Canadian colleges and universities can qualify, regardless of whether you’re Canadian or an international student.
Best Non-Profit Loan for Student Entrepreneurs
Waubetek Business Development Corporation (Waubetek Business DC) – Business Loans: Term Loans and Bridge Financing
The Waubetek Business Development Corporation has numerous financing options available for Indigenous entrepreneurs on or off reserve in Northeastern Ontario. It offers a variety of business loans to establish, expand or purchase a business in North Eastern Ontario.
Funding can take the form of Term Loans or Bridge Loans (temporary loans to carry or bridge projects until receipt of confirmed funds from third party lenders or government agencies).
Best In-Kind Support for Student Entrepreneurs
Have a look at the in-kind support programs below! Some of them provide both in-kind support and funding.
Entrepreneurship, Practice and Innovation Centre (EPICentre, University of Windsor) – EPIC Incubation Program
The EPIC Incubation Program supports startups who have achieved initial traction and are ready to launch their businesses in full-scale. Members will have access to mentorship, co-working space, a panel of industry experts, exclusive funding opportunities, and other resources to help them launch and grow their ventures.
The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (University of Toronto) – Start@UTIAS Hatchery
Start@UTIAS and the Univerity of Toronto (U of T) Entrepreneurship Hatchery have formed an alliance to provide UTIAS (University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies) students, including alumni, an effective program to create a startup business. It is a process designed for UTIAS students or recent graduates with the goal of feeding into either the NEST or LaunchLab stream.
BFN Accelerate (at University of Toronto) – BFN Accelerate Program
The BFN Accelerate, a classic cohort-based accelerator model, is designed to be complementary to other opportunities within the University of Toronto (U of T) Entrepreneurship community and can be completed concurrently with initiatives delivered by U of T’s accelerators. Its structured program delivers education and workshops tailored to Black entrepreneurs, including workshops/sessions with an emphasis on market and customer research, MVP product development, competitor analysis, beta testing, revenue generation and product-market fit.
Leap Junction – LeapIN Business Accelerator
The LeapIN Business Accelerator, a 12-week program, is a real-world, hands-on learning experience designed for early-stage Fanshawe College founders to validate their business ideas, establish a minimum viable product, and build a roadmap for implementation to launch their startup.
Western Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship (Western University) – Western Accelerator
Launched in January 2017, the Western Accelerator, a four-month program, is an immersive education in entrepreneurship for new high-potential ventures. It is a critical component of the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Western University. It provides an intense, rapid and immersive education for prospective entrepreneurs. Its goal is to accelerate the life cycle of high potential ventures and to compress a year’s worth of learning into a few months for their entrepreneurs.
Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEIE) (Toronto Metropolitan University) – Innovation Boost Zone (IBZ): Lab2Market Program
IBZ’s Lab2Market Program is a 16 week program to help researchers validate their ideas with the purpose of finding business/commercial value. The program is based on similar programs that have found success in other parts of the world, but with a Canadian twist.
The Longo Centre for Entrepreneurship (Humber College) – Innovate & Create Entrepreneurship (ICE) Program
The Innovate & Create Entrepreneurship (ICE) is a 12 weeks program aimed to bring one’s idea down to earth and get ready to launch. Applicants explore business basics, innovation skills, marketing, finances and more with experts and entrepreneurs who can guide their journey. Every session is practical, hands-on, and focused on taking the applicant’s idea to the next level.
ICUBE UTM (University of Toronto Mississauga) – ICUBE Venture Forward
Venture Forward is designed to accelerate your business growth in a sustainable way. Work with mentors and industry professionals in a boutique-style experience. Join a community of entrepreneurs all working toward the same goal: making an impact, and scaling up!
The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (University of Toronto) – Hatchery NEST
The Hatchery NEST is University of Toronto (U of T) engineering-based process, with more than 94 startups launched since its creation. It is an experiential learning opportunity that instills and nurtures the entrepreneurial mindset in all U of T students and faculty. In the Hatchery’s unique environment, students experience the successes and failures of the entrepreneurial journey within a challenging yet supportive setting.
Best Business Competitions for Student Entrepreneurs
The Longo Centre for Entrepreneurship (Humber College) – BMO Launch Me Entrepreneurship Program & Competition
BMO Launch Me Competition was created to support students and recent grads with seed funding to get their venture ideas off the ground. Contestants with the overall strongest business plan and pitch will have the opportunity to win a portion of funding for their startups.
The funds will be distributed in three categories:
Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC, Queen’s University) – DDQIC Regional Pitch Competition
DDQIC Regional Pitch Competition is organized to give post-secondary students and other members of the Kingston community, the opportunity to advance their early stage venture through funding and mentorship. This competition is offered in two series:
Velocity, University of Waterloo – Velocity $5K (formerly Concept $5K)
The Velocity $5K pitch competition offers the opportunity for University of Waterloo student-led teams with innovative solutions and high potential business ideas to showcase their hard work and compete for grant funding. Participants receive valuable feedback, pitching experience, and idea validation from a network of experienced entrepreneurs and Velocity Coaches.
The Bottom Line
There are many excellent programs currently available to students to start a business in Canada.
But don’t forget that there are many more types of funding programs than grants. When looking for funding for your start-up, widen your search to loans, business competitions, entrepreneurship programs, and the many other types of financing that are available for different demographic groups, industries, and purposes of funding.